August is upon us, and the children of school age realize summer vacation is rapidly drawing to a close. The dog days of summer grasp to hold onto its grip while fall is just beyond the horizon. Parents scramble for school supplies while children dread the conclusion of summer.
It is amusing looking back how much our school days and childhoods were some of the best days of our lives. What most of us wouldn’t give for a time-machine ride to recapture a bit of yesterday.
During this time of year when I am not working, you will find me with a bow in my hand and a stream of sweat dripping off of my nose as mosquitoes drain me of pints of blood. I am standing for hours launching arrow after arrow into an archery bag target. I become comfortable until the arrow becomes an extension of my line of sight.
I am one of the many archery enthusiasts who head to the fields and timber every fall looking to fill the freezer and fulfill dreams that began long ago in my youth. It is a competition between man and beast that extends back into time. Time is a relevant thing, and as you age, you become aware that one day you will take your final hunt and you become physically unable to accept the challenge to harvest game any longer. That too is understood and accepted as part of nature’s plan.
I guess my trips outdoors hold certain relevance for me. I spent my entire youth with my Pop as my best friend. We were inseparable. He was the mentor, and I was the student. I grew up fishing and in the timber hunting squirrels and hunting upland birds in the grain fields. Deer hunting was something I willed my Pop into when I was 8 years old. It was like having Tiger Woods as a boxing coach. My Pop grew up in a period where deer and turkeys were absent from the Missouri landscape. He knew nothing about deer hunting, but he knew everything about the outdoors. He knew I was interested so he sacrificed his time to introduce us both to a new sport. What we learned, we learned together. He was almost deaf from serving in two wars, but I was his ears and together we figured it out.
Trial and error proved to be the best teacher for me, and I branched out into hunting waterfowl, turkey and all things archery.
Pop had failing health, and my best hunting buddy began slowing down as I started to drive at age 16. Things that we did as a pair became a solo act. I decided if I couldn’t have my best friend at my side, then no one could fill his shoes. I became a lone wolf. During this period of my life I became consumed with making my parents proud. Every season found me stopping by with my trophies and the stories that accompanied them. I wanted Pop to be a part of the hunt, even if he had to relive it through my eyes. He just beamed as I showed my harvests to him. He knew he was a major factor in my hunting success.
When I was 35 years old, my Pop passed on. He was an encyclopedia of outdoor and life knowledge. He taught me far more than I realized. A few of my children enjoyed the outdoors, but it was more of something I did. No one seemed to possess the passion for hunting that I had. My youngest daughter shows promise but she is 13 years old and she has discovered boys. My middle daughter is a fishing fanatic, and my wife thinks I am nuts to leave so early, stay so long, and work so hard on my days off. All is not lost for me. I do have grandsons, and one of them is hooked on the outdoors. I don’t see me as a solo act much longer. He has the same gleam in his eye as I did. It is almost like Pop talked it over with God and said, “He really needs a hunting buddy.” When we see each other he immediately asks to go hunting. That feels pretty awesome.
I know it is impossible to recapture your youth. You can take what you’ve learned on your own and from those before you to improve a child’s life. This holds true in everything in life and not only hunting. Mentor the upcoming generations so a little trace of you will remain after you have left this earth.
Time is a precious commodity. Share some of yours to make a difference. When you see children fall in love with nature you can harvest their smiles. That is a bulls-eye every time. There is no better target than the heart and mind of a child. Children are our future. Share your knowledge and shoot straight.